We’ve all heard of Jim Clark, the late and fabled Grand Prix driver tragically killed at Hockenheim in 1968. However, there was another ‘Jim Clark’ at Lotus at the same time who later earned himself a great reputation in the kit and specialist car industry. STEVE HOLE is convinced that this Jim Clark doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

Very modest chap, Jim Clark. The ‘other’ Jim Clark as he was known at Lotus in the sixties. He’s had a hand in some of the most iconic racing cars ever built plus a good few kit and specialist cars, but even so, there’s more than a good chance that you’ve never heard of him.

New Zealander Clark was an architect in his homeland before leaving for England in 1959 joining a steady flow of his countrymen who were fascinated by motorsport. Names such as Chris Amon, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Tim Schenken and Howden Ganley, went on to find fame in the UK and way beyond.

Clark is quoted as explaining his reason for leaving New Zealand thus: “I didn’t want to spend all my time designing pig pens.”

An incredibly laid-back character, potential customers for Jim Finch’s GDXM/Griffin kitcar or the later Manx wouldn’t have known about his work at Lotus and Specialised Mouldings because Jim certainly wouldn’t have told them.

A job at Lotus in the sixties would see him refine his styling and GRP laminating skills. He is credited as working on the GRP of most of the albeit scorned Lotus 30 and the fixed-head version of the Elan. At Lotus, he was also given the ‘nickname ‘the other Jim Clark’ by his fellow workers.

After Lotus, Clark joined Peter Jackson’s Specialised Mouldings in Huntingdon as head stylist and this is where his career really flourished.

We’ve covered the history of Specialised Mouldings before in TKC Mag but suffice it to say they are probably the greatest ever GRP company being responsible for producing the bodies for some of the most iconic racing cars ever.

They would produce the bodies from the customers’ moulds or could totally style a project, which is where Jim Clark and other gifted colleagues such as Peter Wright came into their own.

At one time the company and their next-door neighbours, in Redwongs Way Industrial Estate, Arch Motor had the British motorsport scene sewn up. Arch fabricated the chassis; Specialised Mouldings laminated the bodies.

Jackson, who sadly died in 2019 aged 90, was a genuinely nice man, but he never stood still and was totally driven. For example, he invested in a ¼-scale wind tunnel when not many people had one in the UK, while his company was one of the earliest exponents of composites in the UK. A very keen pilot (acrobatics was a favourite bit of fun) and as well as a leisure pursuit, Jackson also created an aviation division at Specialised Mouldings.

It was Clark who worked closely with clients wanting a bespoke job or one that had extra special requirements. Clark was incredibly gifted and had the knack of being able to turn a customer’s drawings – this was years before CAD drawings – into the third dimension.

While it’s hard to itemise exactly which cars Clark worked on directly Jim definitely styled the GRP body moulds for Lola T70, a variety of Brabhams, Royales and Merlins, while he also worked heavily on the McLaren M6 GT. There was loads of other stuff too but often he’d contribute a particular element of a project.

Although Chevron founder, Derek Bennett did the main design on the B16 and B19 models, Clark is credited with refining the styling before production.

When Jim left Specialised Mouldings, he became a hired gun for styling and GRP work. He’d often travel to various parts of Europe and North America to sort out the body of some car or other turning a design into a body buck.

Jim later started Group Designs in Crowthorne, Berkshire where he would take on various contract work. By the mid-seventies, however, he had moved to Poole, Dorset to work with his friend Jim Finch (another incredibly talented exponent of GRP) of FKS Fibreglass. Having already had a large hand in the GD-XM for Finch, when he joined FKS, he helped revise the styling info what became Griffin.

Poole was a hotbed of motorsport talent back then with Roger Penske’s operation, having taken over Graham McRae’s business, who were FKS’ next-door neighbours. Other talented individuals like John Lambert and Len Terry would have all been around the vicinity, at this time, not to mention Ray ‘The Rodfather’ Christopher, who’d later bring his GTD Developments to the same industrial estate in Poole. Finch did the GRP for Penske, GTD and many others.

We’ll be looking at the careers of other Poole ‘illuminati’ such as Jim Finch and an intriguing chap called Cyril Malem in the near future, incidentally.

By the late eighties Jim was back in Crowthorne, running a new company called ‘Plasticar Designs’ and among their activities was a Citroën-based two-seater called the Manx.

Another very underrated kitcar name is Alan Fereday. A skilled kitcar builder. He’d built some beautiful Marcoses in the early nineties and he’d also been an agent for Onyx, too. When David Golightly’s company suffered a devastating fire Fereday gave them a much-needed temporary home.

He was also handling sales and technical queries for Jim Clark’s Manx, amongst other activities. The Manx was a delight. No power, no real luxuries but arguably one of the best 2CV-based kitcars, with delightful GRP and a real charm.

I’m normally good at tracking down the subjects of these historic features, but Jim has proven too tough a nut to crack even for us. Thus far! There was a rumour that Clark was running a shop (unknown but possibly art-related) in the Knightsbridge area of London, but I was unable to confirm that and people who knew him think that this is highly unlikely.

I guess there would be a lot more to add to this story, but I felt it only right to take the ‘fail we may; sail we must’ approach with this one as the ‘other’ Jim Clark is way overdue the credit he deserves for his excellent work and vision over the years.